March 6, 2015
Dominica to be admitted to appellate jurisdiction of CCJ today

Fri, Mar 06, 2015

by Oscar Ramjeet

The Commonwealth of Dominica will today, Friday March 6, be formally admitted as a member of the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). An impressive accession ceremony is scheduled for State House Conference Centre in the country’s capital Roseau.{{more}}

President of the CCJ, Sir Dennis Byron and the six other judges of the Court have journeyed from Port of Spain for the function. Dominica is the fourth Caribbean country to abolish appeals to the London based Privy Council. The others are Guyana, Barbados and Belize.

After nearly two decades of discussions by Caribbean leaders, the CCJ was inaugurated in April 2005 with only two countries – Guyana and Barbados, as members. Belize joined less than four years ago.

It is very unfortunate that Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, which were at the forefront of the formation of the regional court have not yet joined, and it is not certain if and when they will do so. The Portia Simpson PNP administration of Jamaica is in favour of the CCJ, but now the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is opposed to the regional court. When it was in government under Edward Seaga, the JLP vigorously supported the court. Likewise in Trinidad and Tobago, Basdeo Panday, when he was Prime Minister was a strong advocate for the court, but it seems as if there has been a change of heart by the UNC administration. In fact the Court was located in Port of Spain because of Panday’s strong support.

The governments of Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, and Grenada have expressed their willingness to join the court. Former St Kitts/Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, never pushed for the court while in office for 20 years, but recently criticized the Privy Council for its ruling in not allowing the election process to be conducted under the new boundaries which Douglas had advocated.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves wants his country to join the Appellate Division of the Court, but his referendum failed in November 2009. I am of the view the referendum was not successful because it was cramped with other controversial issues including removing the Queen as Head of State.